It's not all that uncommon to see professional hitters alter their batting stances from time to time. Seeing so many established sluggers make such noticeable changes this year, however, has been unique. With the availability of advanced metrics and increased usage of analytics among clubs and front offices, not only are the fundamentals evolving, but so are the strategies.
What does that mean for guys like Buster Posey, a once-perennial All-Star who has been in the league for a decade-plus? Well, perhaps his batting stance modifications can provide some clarity.
We made a list of eight hitters who altered their stances since the 2020 season and dived into what the returns have been for them thus far.
Here's what we found.
His bat is now sitting in an upright position. Votto -- who is currently on the injured list -- is no longer in a deep squat (or any squat, for that matter). Before landing on the IL with a broken thumb in May, Votto posted career-lows in both OBP and OPS. On the flip side, his average exit velocity (92.6 mph), barrel percentage (12.3%), and hard hit percentage (49.4%) are all his best marks since Statcast began tracking in 2015.
Was it a year away from baseball or the plate adjustments that led to Buster Posey's resurgence? Perhaps, it's both.
For the entirety of his career (including college), Posey's stance featured a bat tap behind his right shoulder, low squat, and high leg kick. In 2021, the leg kick is still evident, but the bat position is now upright. Not to mention, his stature is much more visually relaxed. It's very Justin Turner-esque.
Posey already has hit more home runs this year (10) than he did in each of the previous three (2018: 5, 2019: 7, 2020: DNP).
After a lackluster 2019 season, Wil Myers made the switch to a more locked-and-loaded position in 2020. He's only exaggerated it further here in 2021.
Will Middlebrooks, who is a former teammate of Myers, broke down the alterations on the Wake and Rake Podcast, saying, "His hands are pulled to his shoulder and it's already loaded like a sling shot." His traditional numbers have been decent. However, an 85.7-mph average exit velocity and 37.8 hard-hit percentage are both career lows.
Cody Bellinger was transparent in Spring Training about his commitment to opening his stance. When asked about the changes in March, Bellinger said he's "done it in the past [and] had success with it."
It's tough to take much of anything away performance-wise considering a hairline fracture in his leg has limited him to just 46 at-bats across 12 games. Guess we will have to store this one in the wait-and-see department.
New team, old stance? Kyle Schwarber has reverted back to his early Cubs days by sitting back down in his low crouch with the bat resting on his shoulder. He is also slightly more closed, particularly in his upper body, compared to last season.
Schwarber alluded to the modifications in Spring Training, explaining that "the game started going up, up, up [in the zone] and so I started going up, up, up [with my stance]. And I lost some things down." Schwarber seems to have found a middle ground with his stance.
As evident by the side-by-side, Narvaez is less tilted with his upper body this year. In 2020, the bat rested on and nearly behind the shoulder. Whereas, the bat this year is now circling above the shoulder. His swing also featured what can only be described as a "double-load" prior to this season -- one load as the pitcher came set and once more as the pitch was delivered. That is no longer the case with Narvaez transitioning into a more familiar single-load.
Props to whomever approached the Giants' core veterans about making adjustments because they are all hitting the ball extremely hard so far this season (i.e. Posey, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt). The 34-year-old Crawford is playing with something to prove as he approaches free agency.
It's much easier to decipher the changes when comparing it to his 2019 stance. But, for this season, pay attention to his left elbow position. In 2020, his elbow was pointing almost directly toward the backstop. Here in 2021, however, it is pointed more downward. His launch angle has dramatically increased each of the past two seasons (2019: 8.2, 2020: 12.4, 2021: 13.2). He's on pace to hit more than 30 home runs, a mark he has never sniffed before.
Kris Bryant appears to have regained his All-Star form after setting career-lows in nearly every statistical category last season.
Since narrowing his feet positioning and standing taller in the box, his swing path is much improved. Bryant is now scorching anything thrown his way after struggling against the fastball a year ago. He also owns a career-high .275 xBA and .414 xwOBA.